Research on forced migration provides critical input into the processes that help shape policy on displacement and humanitarian response. On that account, researchers should directly engage refugees, other forcibly displaced groups, and the communities that host them. The self-representation of refugees is a principle that has recently been reaffirmed through the discussions around the Global Compact on Refugees, as well as other processes.
Research with people who have been forced to migrate, typically to escape man-made (e.g. civil unrest) and other disasters can involve some of the most vulnerable and at-risk people. It can also involve situations where individuals might feel that they can not refuse to participate in a project (e.g. because they may worry that they will lose essential support if they refuse). For researchers, there can be essential considerations of whether the research might impact on the free, full and prompt flow of support to people in critical need.
On 10 December, UNHCR, IASFM, PHAP, and the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network (GAIN) organized a webinar in which we discussed the particular ethical challenges faced in researching situations of forced migration, how these relate to the application in practice of the principle of “do no harm”, and the IASFM Code of Ethics. We heard from researchers, a refugee post-graduate student, as well as a camp manager, who shared their experience and exchanged views on these questions.